Question: Some teachers say that the rational mind cannot comprehend the truth of the Self because the mind is stuck in its patterns of thinking; they say that only intense experiences will shake these patterns loose. Would Swamiji please comment?
Swamiji: How can experience shake a thinking pattern? A logical pattern cannot be shaken by anything. From being taught you know that the sun stands still and that the earth goes round. Does your everyday experience of a rising sun sake that thinking ?
How can wrong thinking – firmly entrenched notions – be shaken by mere experience? It cannot be shaken. You think you are the physical body. Yet every night in a dream experience while that body is stretched out on a mattress with a pillow under its head, a ‘you ’unconnected to the body works and eats and plays, is happy and sad. That dream experience does not shake your conclusion that you are the body. A teacher may use your dream experience as an aid to help you discover through knowledge, that you are not the body, but experience itself does not do the job of shaking off the wrong thinking.
Wrong thinking can be shaken only by right thinking, which comes from knowing, from seeing, not experiencing. Techniques which incapacitate thinking do not really work for recognizing yourself. You can arrest thinking for a while, but you cannot shake off wrong thinking. When thinking returns, the wrong thinking will repeat itself.
Question: Why then do we hear so much about techniques?
Swamiji: There is some benefits in working for quietude; a quiet mind is a useful mind, ready to learn, ready to see. To work for such a mind is understandable. There are techniques and practices which are helpful. Pranayama, physical exercise, certain diets are all fine if their purpose is understood. A relatively contemplative lifestyle and assimilated ethical values are also important. All these constitute preparation of the mind for knowledge. It is the same in any branch of knowledge. The mind must have proper preparation for learning. It must be ready to be taught the particular subject. Learning to read comes before the study of literature.
Question: But we keep hearing that thereare teachers who, through touch or through some induced experience, can cause all things to fall in place so that you realise the Truth. Could it be that through experiences you can get sufficient glimpses of the vision of the Truth, so that you then do not have to go through a heavy intellectual resistance of accepting that vision?
No. The truth of oneself is not an intellectual conclusion, nor is it something to be ‘reached’ by experience. The student is not an ‘elevator’ to go ‘up to Brahman’ at the touch of a guru. Brahman is you – not a place to be reached. It is not through an experience that you become Truth.
There is nothing to become. There is nothing to transform. You are the truth you are seeking. The teaching of Vedanta is simple a pramana, a means of knowledge, an instrument that shows you what you are.
What you are is not an intellectual conclusion. Intellectual means inferential. An intellectual conclusion is an inferential conclusion about something not available for immediate perception but about which there are data available from which some logical conclusion can be reached.
Your existence requires no inference. You are not available for inference because you are right here as yourself; you are immediately present. You are available to be known, not to be inferred. You fail to know yourself only due to ignorance, not due to lack of availability of yourself. Knowledge, not inference, nor experience, destroys that ignorance.
Vedanta directly teaches you what you are. The use of logic is for removal of doubts, to give clarity to your vision. We use yukti, certain reasoning methods to remove the blocks you may have which interfere with your clear vision; these blocks are always rational and can be removed by reason. We use your experiences also. We help you assimilate your experiences in terms of knowledge. In fact we help you see that you have always had an experience of yourself. You do not require a new experience to see yourself. There is no source of ananda, the vision of fullness that you call happiness, except yourself.
Whenever you pick up a resolving moment of happiness, you experience your essential self. Vishayananda, means happiness gained through a desirable object – something in which there is a ‘kick’ for you and for a moment that ‘kick’ swallows up all other wants of the wanting mind.
That ananda, fullness, that sukha, happiness is but you, yourself really. Through some gain, through some sensation, through a profound appreciation of beauty, whatever, a certain mental condition occurs in which for a moment you are just with yourself, you want no change whatsoever in anything. In the quiet clarity of a mind that wants no change whatsoever, you pick up yourself as a moment of ananda , a moment of happiness. You do not recognize that ananda as yourself but instead attribute it to an object or a situation experienced.
Desiring ananda all the time, you continually see it through all your actions. You know that you want ananda again. The very fact that you want ananda shows that you know it. Nobody desires something that is unknown. You know what ananda is and that is why you want it. What you do not know is that you are ananda; you cannot but help seek it because it is your very nature and you cannot settle for anything else, for anything less. But do you know there is such a thing as ananda; you know that there are moments of fullness which are moments of happiness. You do not require some strange, new experience to know that there are such moments of fullness.
Even if you gain some new experience which reveals ananda to you, it makes no difference. Whether the experiences you have are usual or unusual, they still have to be assimilated in terms of knowledge. Experience by itself does not give knowledge. It is only an experience. It comes and goes. Shruti, the scriptures, provide the basis for the knowledge that the moment of happiness I experience reflect my real nature, ananda, limitlessness, fullness.
Experience does not give me knowledge of the nature of fullness nor does it give me the vision of the whole. Slipping into myself does not give me knowledge of the whole – knowledge of the truth of myself, the world and of the Creator.
It is the knowledge of the whole that frees me just as I am. For that knowledge, I need to know, very well, what is mithya, apparently real, and what is satyam, non-negatable Reality. It is not enough just to be myself. I have to account for this world or else things will not fall into place. Just slipping into myself does not make things fall into place. If I do not discover the nature of the world as well as that of myself , the world will overwhelm me and I will have to escape from the world.
If experience is all that is needed to know the Truth of everything, all one has to do is take drugs. No Vedanta, no yoga, no touch on the forehead, nothing is necessary – simply take drugs. When experience is seen as Truth, it comes to that. The whole drug culture has grown because of this false idea.
Vedanta has been presented as an experience. This is a wrong presentation. Aldous Huxley and some others introduced Vedanta this way.
Vedanta is knowledge, not a happening. A teacher unfolds the knowledge of oneself until it is clear .Doubts and vagueness are eliminated by logic, bringing clarity of vision. Vedanta is the immediacy of knowledge.
When that immediacy of knowledge is presented as experience, confusion follows. This confusion has arisen, at least in part because there is a word in Sanskrit, ‘anubhava’ which has been translated in English simply as ‘experience’. Such a translation cause the expectation of a ‘happening’, not a ‘seeing’.
I would rather translate ‘anubhava’ as immediate knowledge. Gurupadesham anusrtya bhavati iti anubhavah. That which is in keeping with the teaching is called anubhava. For the qualified student, that which comes after the teaching is knowledge in keeping with the teaching. But instead, ‘anubhava’ is translated everywhere as ‘experience’ which does not bring about the correct understanding that what is indicated is immediate knowledge.
Question: Could you call this ‘realization’ rather than ‘experience’?
Swamiji: It is recognition in terms of knowledge. You recognize the Truth of yourself in terms of knowledge – a knowledge that embraces you, your world, and God. Unless you see the whole, your problem is not solved. In knowledge you see the identity of God, world and you. You see the nondual vision as a whole. You cannot duck from duality.
Neither experience nor knowledge destroys the perception of duality. Experience is only an escape from the perception of duality; knowledge accounts for duality. In knowledge I face duality and see there is no duality. I appreciate and enjoy the world I perceive but at the same time I know there is no duality.
It is like the sunrise. I know that the sun does not rise in the eastern sky, but nonetheless I am enchanted by the beuty of the rising sun. The sky is not blue nor does the rainbow have substance, but I rejoice in the blueness of the sky and welcome the rainbow. Just because duality does not have absolute reality does not mean it is not perceived nor does it mean it should not be enjoyed for what it is. This is not the point. The point is truth must be known as a whole.
The whole should account for the world, God and myself – my mind, my body, my struggles, my liberation – everything should be accounted for and in that accounting, the fact that ‘I am that whole’, should be seen. Mere experience does not account for the whole. The whole is accounted for in terms of knowledge.
Knowledge requires a pramana, an instrument of knowledge and someone to wield that instrument. Shruti, scripture, is the pramana and the teacher wields the pramana, unfolding the words of Shruti until the student sees the fact of the whole and knows, “That whole I am”.
Om Tat Sat